Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Personal Development and Socio-Cultural Change

Abstract

The two group leaders will gather a group a researchers to address a cluster of questions that have engaged both of us for many years, but in relation to which we have taken contrasting positions and offered different kinds of answers. The aim of the group is to establish an ongoing dialogue between two different theoretical positions in order to address a fundamental question: How do subjectivities develop in the tension between social identity-construction and meaning-making and personal emotional meaning?Hanne Haavind’s work is positioned within cultural psychology, emphasizing the study of power relations of the situation and the explicit and negotiated meanings that are exchanged between the participants. Harriet Bjerrum Nielsen bases her work in recent developments in psychoanalytic theory and emphasizes unconscious meaning and emotional investment as part of the human experience and capacity. Taking these differences as our point of departure, we want to create new knowledge about the relation between personal identity and development, on the one hand, and social and cultural processes of change on the other. The project will improve the understanding of the mutual relation between the social and the personal – as both aspects can be seen in a perspective of temporal change. The participants in the group will pose the questions specifically in relation the psychological development of children and young people in a historical period when previously relatively stable categories of identity, like gender and age, have increasingly come under pressure and are challenged by the ethnic diversity present in the everyday life of children and young people. How do children and young people develop through contexts, and how are contexts transformed through new generations of young people growing up? The theoretical understanding will be developed in a way that relates closely to empirical analysis. Participants who represent different theoretical positions and different methodological approaches to reading and interpreting empirical material, and they will al bring their own recordings from interviews and naturalistic observations in order to test and compare different analytical approaches. Confronting different positions will hopefully create an analytic tension that we, after several decades of disagreement, intend to turn into a fruitful dialogue.

End Report

We organized this project to deepen understanding of complex relations between processes of personal development and the broader dynamics of social and cultural change. More specifically, we organized an ongoing dialogue between two different theoretical perspectives on the question: How do subjectivities develop in the tension between social identity-construction and meaning-making, and personal emotional meaning?

Hanne Haavind’s work is positioned within cultural psychology, emphasizing contextual power relations and explicit and negotiated meanings that are exchanged between the participants. Harriet Bjerrum Nielsen draws on psychoanalytic approaches that emphasize unconscious meaning and emotional investment. Taking these differences as our point of departure, we invited 19 other scholars to join us in exploring relations between personal identity and development, on the one hand, and social and cultural processes of change on the other. We attended to complex temporal dimensions of both the social and the personal, posing questions about the psychological development of children and young people in a historical period when previously relatively stable categories of identity, like gender and age, have been increasingly challenged by rapid institutional transformation and cultural diversity. Each of the participants in our research group has done theoretically informed empirical work that addresses another of our core questions: How do children and young people develop through contexts, and how are contexts transformed through new generations of young people growing up?

The participants brought a range of theoretical positions and methodological approaches to the reading and interpreting of empirical materials. We organized the CAS year into four sessions, each with a different configuration of participants who focused on specific pieces of empirical data (e.g. transcripts of open-ended interviews and/or notes from naturalistic observations) contributed by one or two members of the group. This gave the larger group an opportunity to try out and compare different analytical approaches, and it opened multiple paths of generative dialogue that continued through the year. Each of the research teams formed during the four sessions involved intellectual collaboration among people who had never worked together before; each of the teams developed theoretically informed inquiries and analytical approaches which resulted in at least one paper. Some of the papers are now under review for journal publication; others are still in process.

Looking back, the greatest achievement of the year was the quality of our engagement with one another. The work in each session was intensive, and most complaints were not about disagreements but rather about how quickly the time past. To say that the group worked hard on the problems they encountered does not mean that we solved them or reached ultimate conclusions.

Fellows

  • Aarseth, Helene
    Postdoctoral Fellow University of Oslo (UiO) 2010/2011
  • Andenæs, Agnes
    Associate Professor University of Oslo (UiO) 2010/2011
  • Hauge, Mona-Iren
    Senior Researcher Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS) 2010/2011
  • Hjorth, Katrin
    Professor University of Southern Denmark (SDU) 2010/2011
  • Hollway, Wendy
    - The Open University 2010/2011
  • Hydén, Margaretha
    Professor University of Linköping 2010/2011
  • Layton, Lynne Bonnie
    Assistant Professor Harvard Medical School 2010/2011
  • Lucey, Helen Fiona
    Dr. University of Bath 2010/2011
  • Magnusson, Eva
    Professor Umeå Universitet 2010/2011
  • Marecek, Jeanne
    Professor Swarthmore College 2010/2011
  • Moe, Anita
    Ph. D. Candidate University of Oslo (UiO) 2010/2011
  • Olsvold, Aina
    Ph. D. Candidate University of Oslo (UiO) 2010/2011
  • Phoenix, Ann Alison
    Professor University of London 2010/2011
  • Rudberg, Monica
    Professor University of Oslo (UiO) 2010/2011
  • Thomson, Rachel Sarah
    Professor The Open University 2010/2011
  • Thorne, Barrie
    Professor University of California, Berkeley 2010/2011
  • Urwin, Cathy
    Dr. Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust 2010/2011
  • Walkerdine, Valerie
    Professor Cardiff University 2010/2011
  • kofoed, Jette
    Associate Professor Aarhus University 2010/2011

Previous events

  • 18 Aug - 20 Aug 2010
    (all day)
    The Norwegian Academy of Arts and Science The Norwegian Academy of Arts and Science

News

Group leader

  • Hanne Haavind

    Title Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 2010/2011
  • Harriet Bjerrum Nielsen

    Title Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 2010/2011
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